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FortyNothing

Switching to Treble Clef After 20 Years of Bass Clef?

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So... After 20 years or so of only having to read bass clef (and some occasional tenor clef) for trombone, I find myself having to read treble clef again (violin) which I haven't done since 5th grade piano lessons. 

I can still read it, but not nearly with the speed and precision I can with bass clef. Plus I keep reverting back to bass clef sometimes when I'm reading it from being brainwashed and conditioned for bass clef. 

Any tips on how to make this transition easier or faster?

Edited by FortyNothing

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To work on treble reading for bass, I often read out of fake books, song books, or 1st position violin books as the range is usually reasonable for high position bass work. I also practice playing down the octave ala dvorak cello. There’s plenty of material on imslp.org for free or you can see what your local library might have.

For trombone, I grew up messing around playing trumpet and tenor sax parts for reading Bb in pepband events (games etc.) Think tenor clef, but with the accidentals to transpose. Reading in C, see above.

Edited by Etorgerson
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Just keep on trying. 

I have a similar problem - i sing bass, and I used to play tuba and piccolo flute (!). So I read bass clef and ledger lines above treble clef with ease, and still I occasionally have to think when I get inside the lines in treble clef.

My next challenge is viola da gamba . I have a piece which is written in bass, baritone, alto and treble clefs - up to three different clefs in a single line...

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What instrument are you now playing in treble clef?

In high school band I played baritone horn in treble clef.  I also played violin in treble clef --and cello in bass, tenor, treble and "trouble clef" (that is treble clef played an octave down). Now I also play viola in alto and treble clefs.

Sometimes my mind glitches when sight-reading music on one of the chin instruments and I will shift an alto or treble clef note  a space (or line) up or down one when the music is fast and my mind switches to the other instrument. I rarely do that on cello because the physicality is so different than the other two instruments'.

All you can do is remain alert to what mistakes you make and let time heal the wounds.

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3 hours ago, Andrew Victor said:

What instrument are you now playing in treble clef?

Violin. I should probably update my original post to say that.

Edited by FortyNothing

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One of my strange perversions in retirement is to play cello parts an octave higher on the viola. I started by thinking bass clef means putting down one less finger as compared with alto clef on the viola but after a few months it became like flipping a mental switch and I didn't have to think any more. For cello tenor clef I use the same fingering on the next higher string and for treble I throw up both hands and go to lie down

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Matesic, for some reason, I can read alto on cello or bass, but not bass or tenor clef on viola. It’s some kind of mental block that I have not had the desire to fix yet.

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Back to 40-0's query: Re-examining your question, I perceive that you are actually reading music in terms of note names.

I think you must do things differently than I do. I have always related place on the staff to place on the instrument rather than to the "name of the note." So I've had no problem switching to a new clef on a new instrument. I got through a number of serious concertos on my 2nd instrument (cello) before realizing that I was playing bass and tenor clefs without ever thinking of note names - in fact if asked to name a note in bass or tenor clef at sight I would actually have to relate it to either an open string location on the staff or the "F-spot" or " middle C-spot" of the clef. But in treble clef I always knew the note names because I'd played violin since age 4. It was not until  my 60s  (20 years ago) when I was teaching cello to a piano teacher that I decided to try to play piano and had to learn note names in bass clef. Now, for the past 4 years I've taken up viola on a more serious level than earlier and I face the same problem with alto clef.

Perhaps it is similar to the mental maps we use when driving. Once you know where you are going, you just follow the map in your head. Once you have related the locations of the "dots" on the (treble) staff to location on the instrument you ought to be able to drive it anywhere the "dots" go from the map  on the sheet music.

I like Etorgerson's statements about not wanting to "fix it." It does take an act of will to begin that step. I was that way with viola for 40 years - just for normal playing. Now I'm facing the same problem about reading the viola (alto) clef on cello - it would definitely be a useful translation skill.

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I agree with Victor that the note name becomes secondary.  There's a shortcut for treble clef and violin that I'm not going to mention because it is a bad idea in the long run because it doesn't involve the note name at all.  This will help -- when you're away from the instrument run through your mind where are all the Gs, then all the As, and etc. on up the scale.  Like for G, open string, 3rd on D, 2nd on E, and so on.  Visualize a picture of the finger there.  That will get you going initially, then as you practice, eventually note names then become secondary in the whole process.

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On 1/30/2019 at 3:23 AM, FortyNothing said:

1.  Plus I keep reverting back to bass clef sometimes when I'm reading it from being brainwashed and conditioned for bass clef. 

2.  Any tips on how to make this transition easier or faster?

1.  I had the same problem going from trombone/euphonium bass clef to electric guitar treble clef.  The egbdf transition from the gbdfa line placement firstly.  It wasn't  easy,  it just takes some time.

2.  If you are serious forget everything you know about bass clef sheet music and make the transition.  I quit reading bass clef in 1985, learned what treble clef had to offer using a guitar and for some reason these days 2019 the understanding of bass clef note placement for trombone usage remains instilled in me.  You'll find over time that the sheet music for violin and or guitar will allow you to play an ungodly number of notes in one sitting as compared to what's possible with a low brass instrument for an alike time period. 

Somewhat off topic - some have the belief that the trombone is the voice of God and the violin is the king of all instruments.  Surely, there can only be one winner. 

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